Families race against time to relocate to Abu Dhabi

Deadline for government employees to make the big shift ends in September

  • Planned move: Malik Muazzam and his family had been living in Dubai for five years before moving to Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/XPRESS
  • Huge impact: The decision is expected to impact around 10,000 employees who cannot get their residency visas rImage Credit: GN Archives

Abu Dhabi: Hundreds of families in Dubai and the northern emirates are in a race against time to relocate to Abu Dhabi as the deadline for the capital’s government employees to make the big shift ends in September.

A decision by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council last September directed all Abu Dhabi government employees to live in the capital or forfeit their housing allowance if they reside in another emirate. They were given a year’s time to comply, following which local departments, public authorities and government-owned companies duly notified their staff.

The decision is expected to impact around 10,000 employees who cannot get their residency visas renewed unless they produce a tenancy contract from Abu Dhabi.

According to statistics from the Abu Dhabi Transport Department, a total of 10,869 vehicles enter Abu Dhabi from 6am to 9am, transporting more than 16,000 passengers everyday. But with many inbound Abu Dhabi passengers shifting to the capital now, the number is set to come down.

An Indian engineer at Etihad hoped his search for a one-bedroom flat in Abu Dhabi would end this week as the relocation deadline looms large. “The tenancy contract for my Dubai flat in Discovery Gardens ends this month. So I stayed put and wanted to move only next month. But I’ve suddenly realised there’s hardly any time left. I hope I will find something suitable by this weekend,” he said.

The wife of an Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC) employee said her family moved to the capital in January to avoid last-minute rush in schools. “My two children, 14 and 11, were studying in Dubai. We moved mid-year as we felt the older one, who was in Class IX, needed time to settle before getting into higher classes.”

Malik Muazzam who works with Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT) and had been living in Dubai for five years, said: “I came to Abu Dhabi with my family three weeks ago. It has been a good move as I planned it well in advance. I secured a seat for my four-year-old son in a school here last year itself. My younger boy is just two and still has time.”

Family compulsions

However, the shift is not proving easy for everyone. Many government employees said they were forced to stay on in other emirates and work round their situations to comply with the new rule. They said they could not move lock, stock and barrel because their spouses held jobs or their children were unwilling to change schools or they had dependent parents whom they could not easily move.

Daniel, a Dubai resident whose children study in Sharjah, said: “I tried to convince the authorities that my children were going to school in Sharjah and could not be easily moved but to no avail. I could not renew my visa unless I produced a tenancy contract from Abu Dhabi. So I took up a small studio close to Musaffah. It’s another matter that I have not stayed there even for a day. I am yet to get my family’s visas stamped and hope I don’t have to get a bigger accommodation.”

An agent with a property management company said there has been a huge increase in demand for studios on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi from residents in similar circumstances. “They want to continue living in Dubai, but take up another accommodation here so they can furnish the necessary tenancy contract.”

Rashid, a Sharjah resident said: “I hope the government gives us more time as an Eid concession. I have a large family to support back home and cannot afford their upkeep if I move to Abu Dhabi. The rent and school fees are far higher in Abu Dhabi than Sharjah or Dubai.”

Others agree

A resident said: “I was paying Dh18,000 as annual [school] fees for my four-year-old son in Dubai. Now I have to pay Dh26,000 in the capital.”

A bachelor said a one-bedroom apartment near the Abu Dhabi Mall is costing him Dh65,000 a year as against Dh50,000 in Discovery Gardens. “I can get cheaper accommodation in Musaffah, perhaps at Dh55,000, but I would want to live in a better area,” he said.

A real estate agent said: “The situation in Musaffah is tight. There is no availability. There is a good demand in other areas like Al Reef where you can get a four bedroom villa for Dh145,000-Dh155,000. Al Reem and the city in general are also witnessing an uptake.”

Private sector confused

As the steady influx of government employees continues, private sector employees remain unclear on whether the residency rule will apply to them.

A official of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs-Abu Dhabi (GDRFA) told XPRESS: “For now, the rule applies to only people working in government organisations and there is time till September. But it’s not right for people working in private companies to stay in the other emirates and work in Abu Dhabi. Long distance travel can affect their work. We have the best facilities in Abu Dhabi.”

A staff at the government’s call centre 800555 said the rule applies to “all employees” working in Abu Dhabi.

A staff at a typing centre near GDRFA said: “An employee working in Abu Dhabi can get his residence visa renewed despite staying in Dubai if the immigration office approves. We do the typing work only after they get such an approval. Usually, such approvals are given to residents working in private companies, not government employees.”

Have you been impacted by the new rule? Tell us your experience. Write to us at news@xpress4me.com or sms 5101. You may also leave a comment below.

  • Pam A

    Jul 18, 2013 12:15

    Thankfully, I am not a government employee and therefore I am notmandated to move to Abu Dhabi. I hope that this mass exodus of Abu Dhabigovernment employees from Dubai would finally ease the traffic situationalong the Dubai Abu Dhabi highway. So far, I have not seen muchdifference.

  • Star

    Jul 18, 2013 10:32

    To ease the rush and also more particularly taking into considerationthe income of private sector, it's the need of the hour to build morestudio flats and 1 bed room, affordable by middle class specially inMussafah areas. Right now there are mostly 2 bed room flats which is notaffordable for middle class families. Also the schools are fewer in AbuDhabi (Indian cbse SCHOOLS) and the fees are too high beyond the reachof middle class sector. I feel the maximum school exps including busfees per month should not exceed Dhs. 750-850.

  • Sunil

    Jul 18, 2013 8:44

    I have got my visa from Abu Dhabi, but working in our Dubai office andstaying in Sharjah with my parents and I have secured an admission for mychild in a school at sharjah. And now I am unable to get residence visasfor my family as AD Immigration asking for a tenancy contract from AD,later I have produced a letter from our company stating that I amstationed at Dubai office, but now I was rejected because tenancycontract is on my father name and contract says a two room flat infactmy flat is two bedroom flat and the officer does not want to listen andunderstand the contract. I am in total confusion as what to do now, isit prohibited in UAE to stay with parents and family under one roof? Ineed a solution for this and need residency visas for my family.

  • Shakeel

    Jul 18, 2013 8:32

    The move made bit hard on me financially & Mentally. In Dubai where the rent is affordable & convenient payment options with all the necessary facilities around. i have shifted few weeks before where; 1)I had to pay the penalty for the old one since I leave before end of thecontract 2) In Abudhabi rents are high & had hard time searching an apartment to my budget. 3) need to pay in 1 payment which also I had a hard time of arranging money 3) There is very less facilities I have compare to Dubai...etc The law will be implemented on Residence but no law to control the rent which going high still. Which is hard time for low grade employees specially having children schooling in Dubai already. So it would be better to have a move by authorities to consider & take suitable action.

  • singh

    Jul 18, 2013 8:28

    this is insane abu dhabi is very costly

  • zia

    Jul 18, 2013 8:19

    Good to live and work in abudhabi, it will ease traffic congestion of dubai -abudhabi bound highway, hence cost of maintain the highway will come down, and rents in dubai and northern emirates will come down,

  • Mun

    Jul 18, 2013 8:14

    I Still Dont understand the Logic behind this rule! my family is happy in Sharjah, my daughter likes her school in Sharjah. its easy to move around in sharjah by walking. in ABU DHABI for small things you need to start your car, and very time consuming in AUH to reach to point B frompoint A.

  • N. RAGHU

    Jul 18, 2013 7:39


  • Mike

    Jul 18, 2013 6:43

    I can't seem to understand this decision. After all these folks are living in the U.A.E. and not any other neighboring country!

Latest Comment

Thankfully, I am not a government employee and therefore I am notmandated to move to Abu Dhabi. I hope that this mass exodus of Abu Dhabigovernment employees from Dubai would finally ease the traffic situationalong the Dubai Abu Dhabi highway. So far, I have not seen muchdifference.

Pam A

18 July 2013 12:52jump to comments